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It’s time to check public holiday rules for Christmas & New Year

If Christmas to New Year are peak times for your business, now’s the time to check you’re getting public holidays right.

Here are the answers to some of the common public holiday questions we get.

Can I ask an employee to work on a public holiday?
Yes, you can ask a staff member to work on a public holiday if the request is reasonable. However, the employee can also refuse to work on a public holiday if they have reasonable grounds.

What is a ‘reasonable’ request or refusal?
To decide what’s reasonable, consider:
  • the nature of the workplace
  • the employee's personal circumstances (such as family responsibilities)
  • whether the employee will get more pay
  • the needs of the workplace
  • the type of work the employee does
  • whether the employee's salary includes work on a public holiday
  • whether the employee is full-time, part-time, casual or a shift worker
  • how much notice the employee was given about working
  • how much notice the employee gives when refusing to work a public holiday.
What do I pay employees when they work public holidays?

Public holiday pay rates are set by your award or enterprise agreement. Most employees are entitled to penalty rates for working on a public holiday. There are also some awards and agreements which allow employers and their employees to agree to:

substitute the public holiday for a different day
have a day added to their annual leave balance, or
get time off in lieu.

Do I have to pay staff who aren’t working on a public holiday?
Casual employees don't get paid for public holidays, unless they work on the actual day.

Full-time and part-time employees who would normally work on the day should be paid at least their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked.

And remember, it’s unlawful to alter an employee's roster to avoid paying public holiday entitlements.

What happens if staff are on paid leave when a public holiday falls?
Public holidays are a different entitlement to paid leave. If an employee is on annual leave or personal/carer's leave when a public holiday falls, the day is still treated as a public holiday.

This means the employee should be paid at least their base rate of pay for the day, and the day shouldn't be taken off their annual leave or personal leave balance.

What if an employee is sick before or after a public holiday?
If one of your employees takes sick leave either side of a public holiday, they should still be paid for the public holiday if it is a day they would normally work.

Like any other sick day, you can ask for evidence (like a medical certificate or statutory declaration) to confirm why they have been away from work.


If you have a query that we haven’t covered here, please contact us:

Jackie Strachan
HR Tactics

P: 0406 146 116
E: Jackie@hrtactics.com.au
W: www.hrtactics.com.au